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Welcome to the first issue of Line-Up, the newsletter of the Broadcast Engineering Conservation Group. We are a small association of qualified, experienced and motivated professionals dedicated to the survival and interpretation of television history.

In this issue we tell you about the formation of the group, about some of our work, provide insight into broadcast history – and even give you a glimpse of a farmyard.
Vivat: Before and after

From the chairman

Paul Marshall

Launching a big ship is a well-known process – a few good words followed by throwing a bottle of perfectly good champagne at it. All being well, the great vessel then responds with some loud graunching noises before it slips effortlessly into the water. Unlike a ship, beginning a new group such as BECG has no real formula to follow, but we’re definitely now moving down the slipway and approaching the water. With registered charity status confirmed and plans evolving for a building, positive things are definitely happening. As we become better known in the heritage community, we will be raising our public profile with articles and our online material. As part of this plan, we’re pleased to welcome you to this, our first issue of Line-Up, our brand-new newsletter which we hope will become a focus for news about broadcast engineering preservation work. We’re pleased to welcome Ruth Slavid aboard as our Hon Editor for this modest publication and we look forward to receiving copy!

Had times been normal, we would have been further forward and attending shows and events with our Project Vivat, BECG’s recreation of a 1950s Marconi-equipped BBC television outside broadcast unit. Sadly, that wasn’t to be, but we have been able to consolidate progress on several fronts including preparing for the inaugural outside broadcast from Vivat. In the meantime, a lot of effort has been going into research work, restoring equipment and preparing for when we can emerge from lock-down to show the trucks and equipment to the public again. 

As ever with such an organisation as ours, funding is one of the key planks to success. All the enthusiasm, knowledge and historical hardware don’t count for much without a long-term funding scheme and plans for keeping these irreplaceable collections together beyond our tenure. This is our real goal – preservation and conservation into the coming decades with a likely survival well beyond the current Trustees’ stewardship. 

We’re now heading down the slipway with the whole BECG project and best wishes to all aboard and a warm welcome to our well-wishers and prospective crew! 

PS we’re saving the champagne for post lock-down.
Project Vivat.

From the treasurer

Jeffrey Borinsky

In November 2019 we applied to the Charity Commission to become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO). This is a relatively new structure that combines a traditional charity with a trading company. Previously we would have needed a separate company along with all the extra administration. The Charity Commission runs very slowly but our application has finally been granted. We are now registered charity number 1189469.

I have registered the BECG with HMRC which means we can now receive Gift Aid donations. If you wish to make a donation please contact us for bank details. 

I’ve also registered the BECG for VAT. This means we will be able to claim back VAT on anything we buy. There is no downside apart from a little extra admin for the treasurer.

From the secretary & webmaster

Dave Hill

From the start of BECG, we realised how important our website is to our presence and to contacting fellow enthusiasts and potential enthusiasts. After some teething troubles with another organisation, we moved the website hosting and domain registration services to Mythic Beasts in Cambridge. Thanks go to their support team for assistance.

In addition to our active address of, we have registered "" as a more memorable domain, along with "".

We have been working hard to add more articles and information to the website (a couple of the articles are described below). We are always keen to learn more. If you have anything to contribute please contact us. We can help with article preparation and editing.

Marconi Mk III TV camera production line is re-born

Paul Marshall reports on an ambitious project - on a small scale

Since the beginning of lock-down, hardly a day has gone past when some aspect of the old main Marconi Chelmsford works hasn’t been re-invented here at our base near Lincoln. Marconi’s gigantic New Street works was an integrated facility – raw materials and small components went in and finished equipment went out. Facilities here have become something like a miniature New Street – the old Section 15 wiring shop, Section 169 (‘TV Test’) and a host of support services. Although there’s nothing as grand as Building 720 Canteen, there is a kitchen staffed by one (my wife Jill!). We have seen so many of the old factory functions live again in terms of metalwork, paint shop, wiring and assembly and final test, albeit on a tiny scale.

Recreating the 1950s
The reason for all this activity has been the drive towards completion of Project Vivat, BECG’s recreation of a 1950s Marconi-equipped BBC television OB (outside broadcast unit). It generates huge demands in terms of recovery from essentially scrap electronics to working equipment. 

The goal is a fully functional unit with three working cameras restored to a standard as close as possible to mid-1950s practice. It will be the oldest fully operational OB truck anywhere in the world and it has to be right. The process has required a large investment of time, money and resources not just into the truck itself but also in restoring and testing a huge amount of mid 1950s Marconi broadcast television equipment. All the restored items must be safe, as authentic as possible and reliable for proper use. 

Some of these goals conflict and it’s a question of balance – new components or refurbish, exposed live terminals or cover, re-paint or call it ‘history’? Just as vintage aircraft are best appreciated when flying, period outside broadcast trucks and their cameras need to be seen working.
The resolution of a complete camera channel being tested. Cyril Teed of test division has this camera trained on a special transparent photograph of a picture which might be seen in a normal outside broadcast. It is Ilford’s picture of Kersey Village, and it has test lines superimposed on it The Marconi Companies and their Peoples', Vol 6, No. 7 February 1956 p20
Lens turret assembly in Section 15. J. Warner, chargehand centre, with R. Wood, right, who is fitting turret bearings, and G. Murdy, left, fitting the filter ring 'The Marconi Companies and their Peoples', Vol 6, No. 7 February 1956 p18
Star attraction
Of course, it’s not just about cameras. There’s all the support equipment including vision and sound mixers, monitoring, communications and test facilities. That said, the working cameras will always be the star attraction. 

With most of the restoration of support equipment complete, attention in the last few months has turned to bringing all three cameras up to operational status at as high a standard as possible. There’s enough raw material for up to six working camera channels, but for now it’s just the three required for Project Vivat. The minutiae of decisions taken on a daily basis can be overwhelming but staying focused on the goal has been a good motivator. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the work to produce the truck’s three fully operational Marconi Mk III 4½" Image Orthicon TV cameras. 

On the production line
The need for three cameras has meant working as something like a production line in terms of refurbishment and testing. We have changed many hundreds of defunct 60-year old capacitors, replaced and dressed wiring, and carried out deep cleaning and painting. We have sourced damaged and missing components and done in-depth technical testing to ensure correct functionality. Where possible and appropriate, we have built test jigs for sub-units that are best tested on the bench. These include ones for viewfinders, low-noise head amplifiers, power supplies and picture monitors. New Street lives again!
Paul working on a Marconi Mk III camera head
First pictures
Camera 3 is now going through initial test and by the time this newsletter appears, it will have produced its first pictures. That’s the three cameras done apart from minor issues such as ‘why doesn’t the iris meter work on Camera 2?’ which will become items for the pre-delivery snag sheet. Fortunately, BECG is the customer and we won’t be facing the dreaded factory acceptance test.
Actual picture from Camera 1 looking at a test chart

The Roving Eye

This is a fascinating history of using vehicle-mounted cameras on outside broadcasts, compiled by BECG trustee Richard Harris. Starting with the installation of a camera on a Daimler ambulance chassis, the article is packed with images of the vehicles and their operators. You can read it here

Thames Television’s OB Fleet

Phil Nott, one of our trustees, has researched and written a history of Thames Television’s outside broadcast fleet. Full of twists and turns, it looks at the development of technology alongside the creation of the London weekday ITV franchise. Read it here

Down on the farm

The land near Lincoln where several of the trucks live and where most of the work takes place, is also a smallholding. Jill Marshall writes the first in an occasional series

Lambing began early for us this year. We wanted more growing time for potential show candidates as most breeders of Lincoln Longwool sheep consider size (large, that is) to be one of the major qualities of this breed which is already one of the largest sheep there is. Size matters!

So, our choice of suitor for our girls arrived in August which is when the breeding season starts in the sheep world. Our lambs arrived in January. Two singles followed by a set of twins and then another set. To cut a long story short, one of the earlier twins did not thrive (mum must have known something as she rejected it). This year we were lucky because we had a great ratio of one male to four females among the survivors. And two singles were looking great candidates for the show ring.

Sadly, as we know, shows have not happened this year. Let’s hope we have a better chance next year.
Putting the burst in
In olden days when men were men and camera tubes were whacking great lumps of glass, there was the Image Orthicon. It came in two flavours: 3” for wimps and 4.5” for real cameras. But they aren’t making real cameras any more, a source of great sorrow for your humble author.

The BECG has lots of IO cameras but that’s not just being lucky. We had to scour rubbish dumps, drain swamps, cross shark-infested seas and ram-raid major museums. But we got them, and they’re all ours. Which is just as well, because they really aren’t making them any more.

So if you want some real IO cameras you know where to come. But you’ll be out of luck because they’re ours and we guard them well.

Then some fool invented the Plumbicon. A silly little thing. It’ll never catch on.
The BECG is a registered Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO), number 1189469. The BECG is financed entirely by the founders and by private donations. If you would like to learn more about us, or help us in any way please email:

More information on our trucks, their equipment and other BECG activities can be found at:

Founding trustees:
Dr Paul Marshall (Chairman)
Dave Hill (Secretary & Webmaster)
Jeffrey Borinsky (Treasurer)
Martin Pritchard
Richard Harris
Phil Nott
BECG page BECG page
BECG Website BECG Website
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